Hofburg is a former imperial winter palace of the Habsburg dynasty, and it has been the seat of the government in Austria and its predecessor countries for almost 800 years. It is one of the biggest palace complexes in the world, and remarkably, it is a city within the city of Vienna. In this article, I will just give you a short overview of this magnificent place.
Hofburg is the vast area dominating Vienna’s first district, which consists of various wings that include residences, a treasury, two chapels, a library, museums, the Spanish Riding School, a theatre and the imperial mews. Such a huge complex hasn’t been built overnight. The builders needed almost seven centuries to construct what we see today in Vienna, but the palace has never been finished. It is missing one wing of what was planned to become the Kaiserforum. It was an architectural project, a sort of an extension of the Hofburg, which should have been the culmination of the ring road project. However, the downfall of the monarchy in World War I interrupted this project.
The construction of Hofburg started already in the 13th century and continued over the centuries. The last wing, so-called New Castle (Neu Burg), was built at the beginning of the 20th century. Already from the Middle Ages, the palace was the seat of the rulers of the states on the territory of today’s Austria. For three centuries, it was the seat of the Habsburg kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and since the establishment of Austria as a republic, Hofburg became the seat of the president of Austria.
Augustinian Wing is a Baroque structure with the Augustinian church, which was used as the court church and functioning monastery of six black-robed Augustinian monks. The church is known by its Hearts Crypt, a burial chamber that holds 54 silver urns containing the hearts of members of the imperial family.
Connected to the Augustinian monastery is a well-known Albertina museum, the home of the largest and most important print collection in the world, with around 65000 drawings and approximately one million old master prints. Redoute Wing is famous for its halls, where the Baroque style entertainment events, such as the masked balls were held. Johann Strauss served as a musical director to the court for the balls held here. One more curiosity is that the premiere of Beethoven's 8th Symphony took place there in 1814.
St. Michael's Wing is a Baroque wing recognizable by its large, bronze dome. Montoyer Wing is the wing with the big Hall of Festivals, where many events and celebration took place, such as court balls, speeches from the throne and even 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. It was built as a throne room, but it was never used as such.
And the last, but definitely not least, is New Palace (Neu Burg) wing built in the period of the major infrastructural projects and development of Ring Street. It was completed one year before the beginning of World War I. This enormous structure, which is also the biggest of all wings, is the seat of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), the World Museum and the National Library of Austria.
The complex Hofburg, located in the 1st district, is hard to miss when you are in Vienna because it is the city within the city. Visiting it is crucial in understanding the imperial city of Vienna.
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